The following is a slightly edited version of a blog post I did in 2011 on the Credo House blog.
In my earlier Christian years, I was taught to hate the world and to avoid participation in it, especially as it related to culture. That means it’s products – music, books, movies, etc. I recall at times being torn because in the early eighties, music video was really taking off and I did like movies. Well, some movies were ok as long as there was no sex, drugs, violence or bad language (God forbid there would be a curse word!). The proof-text that was always used was 1 John 2:15 – “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” That seemed pretty simple. That meant Christian movies with distinct Christian themes, Christian music, and Christian literature was acceptable. This is sacred and worldly things are secular. And Christians did not participate in worldly things, lest they love the world.
Over the years, I have come to a different understanding of what it means to hate the world and to love the world. As Christians, we must love the world since God does and seeks to reconcile it to himself. Yes, for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son (John 3:16). So why does John say don’t love the world? I’m no Johnnine scholar but W. Hall Harris III is. He identifies herethat world in John’s gospel (3:16) refers to humanity and particularly broken humanity, while 1 John references the philosophy and values that are separate from God. Examining 1 John 2:15 in light of the next verse, he says
We are dealing with people who operate purely on a human level and have no spiritual dimension to their existence. This is the person who loves the world, whose affections are all centered on the world, who has no love for God or spiritual things… It is not a reference to culture.
Nothing solidified this more than a class I took in seminary with Glenn Kreider on Theological Method with a particular focus on theology and culture and the fact that God not only operates through his word but through His world. That means that Christians must interact in the world, which means interacting with the world, i.e. culture. Continue reading